The hills were alive with stampeding Spartans! As T.C. Carson called the Monterey Spartan Beast to order, as if that’s even possible, the Elites gathered around in anticipation of what lay before them – the opportunity to emerge victorious! Much of the Pro OCR world was focused on Tuxedo, NY, so those who dared take on the first Beast of the season were ready to put feet to dirt, and miles of dirt there was.
The story of the day was the terrain. Arguably, the most challenging course created to date by Spartan, or at least that is what was heard around Base Camp. For those who tackled the Monterey Beast in 2013, the 2014 course was reversed, creating steep ascents and descents…some nearly vertical requiring all 4 limbs to scramble up or down. Racers were welcomed with the typical Spartan Under-Over-Under-Over-Under, followed by Over-Under-Through, and 6’ wall in the first ⅓ mile; then, the unyielding rise of the hills of Toro Park awaited. Over two miles of elevation change ensued before racers would see the next obstacles…7’ wall, Rolling Mud (nice and slick), and the NEW Monkey Net. Monkey Net has been a bit controversial since its introduction at the Colorado Military Sprint – but it’s a solid obstacle, and the Spartan obstacle design team deserves props for creating this new challenge. It takes the already challenging skill of traversing monkey bars up a notch by integrating the use of a flexible cargo net as the hand platform. I for one am impressed with this new obstacle and accept the challenge – plus it’s great spectator entertainment. Crowds surrounded this one all day!
As the course continued, racers were faced with the typical Spartan fodder – Sandbag carry, not too challenging, Tractor Pull, a little steep on the uphill and soft sand, and Bucket Brigade, one for the books as far as steep goes. Racers were barely able to stand upright with the buckets and ascend the relatively short hill required to complete this obstacle – definite energy sucker! Luckily racers had time to rest their arms with a not so horrible 1-mile hike before reaching the Rope Climb. The longest climb of the day await beginning at mile 6. There would be a 1 mile ascent on a single track trail and a fairly steep 1 mile descent, so steep at times that I skated on my feet in the crab crawl position moving only my hands. Knowing a water station awaited me at the bottom was comforting, though not for long.
The terrain, which toyed with racers all day, seemed to taunt even the most skilled climbers at the beginning of mile 8. A nearly vertical double ascent had many questioning if they could complete this race. The beginning and end of this climb became natural resting spots for taxed racers baring the visage of the downtrodden. Fortunately, Spartan rewarded our efforts with some friendly obstacles shortly after this heinous climb…the Tire Drag, the first of two Barbed Wire Crawls, the 8’ Wall, and the Demo Bag carry (more on this one later). Off of mile 10, a lovely little hike out of the hills. Actually, mile 11 brought the last water station of the day (there were 6 in all that were evenly dispersed, in my opinion, to provide fluid at critical junctures) and the beginning of fantastically laid out spectator friendly obstacles – there was even a shuttle to assist spectator transportation. The 2nd Barbed Wire Crawl was complete with an over zealous fire hose master who targeted his victims with precision…spectators loved it! The Slip Wall was next, followed by the Tire Flip, Spear Throw – nicely fashioned with an enormous burpee corral that seemed to never empty, Hercules Hoist, Traverse Wall, and Monkey Bars.
The last mile of the course greeted racers with an undulating trail requiring no real technical skills – relatively enjoyable actually, especially when greeted with the “Mile 12” sign realizing…THE END IS NEAR! The final three obstacles of the day, if located anywhere other than the end of a 13+ mile race, would have been little challenge, however placed at the finish line, these unassuming gems were burpee makers. The Tire Swing, which this racer hadn’t seen at any previous Spartan races, consisted of 4 individual tires hanging from ropes with each one further from the last requiring racers to build momentum and swing from one to the other transferring from tire to tire without touching the ground and finally ringing the bell. Many racers underestimated this obstacle, as it required much core and arm strength late in the game-HELLO BURPEES! The Inverted Wall was next. Typically inundated with racers helping each other, this time around everyone was so sapped of energy racers struggled here and many reluctantly burpeed out when their arm strength failed. The final obstacle of the day was the Gauntlet – no fire jump in Monterey folks, drought conditions made fire danger too high. The Gauntlet needs work Spartan…not worthy of a final obstacle, if it can even be called an obstacle. Next time make the racers climb on the tires without touching the ground – not just run through a bunch of hanging tires. Of course, many racers were thankful little effort was needed.
With all of that and over 8 miles of significant elevation change, two obstacles were the talk of the day at the finish line…the Gambler’s Obstacle and the Demo Bag Carry. The Gambler’s Obstacle forces racers to choose the lesser of two evils. Elite’s were told to go to the right…indicative of the “harder” course. Both sides held extremely steep, narrow ascents up the mountain, though word is the path to the right had a sheer cliff drop off that was making racers dizzy. I went to the left and it was no cakewalk, but the trail was relatively centered on the hill – so no fear of height issues. When the two trails merged at the top, those who had traveled to the right were definitely thankful to be off their trail. The other big talk of the day goes to the Demo Bag Carry…and when I say talk, I mean ample 4-letter words. The trail for this obstacle was endless and brutal and saw many racers cramping and needing to rest along the route. There were a LOT of discarded demo bags on the course from racers who obviously had decided to forgo completing this obstacle.
The festival entertainment was lively with music and slosh pipe and push up competitions, and the smell of delectable eats wafted about enticing exhausted racers to muster what strength they had left and fill their stomachs with deliciousness. I don’t typically eat in the festival area following a race and was surprised by the high quality food. The first Beast of the year, Monterey saw much celebration in the Festival area where TRIFECTA was the word of the day! Many first time Spartan racers were simply grateful they survived this brutal assault on their bodies and my hat is off to you tackling this Beast right out of the gate.
Everyone who conquered this course should hold his/her head high and know that finisher’s medal is a symbol of strength, persistence, and sheer will! AROO![spartanracerate]
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This review nailed it! Trying to explain to other people the Monterey Beast course is not easy, now I can direct them to this review. I like how the author captured the brutality of the course and it’s obstacles.
“… and Bucket Brigade, one for the books as far as steep goes. Racers were barely able to stand upright with the buckets and ascend the relatively short hill required to complete this obstacle – definite energy sucker!” A roofer friend of mine told me to wear a belt (nylon cargo strp) and rest the bucket on the buckle. It worked, putting the weight on my hips and off my back and arms. It was still a brutal obstacle.
I really wanted to see how the author addressed the “second” sand bag carry OMG!!!
“The other big talk of the day goes to the Demo Bag Carry…and when I say talk, I mean ample 4-letter words. The trail for this obstacle was endless and brutal and saw many racers cramping and needing to rest along the route. There were a LOT of discarded demo bags on the course from racers who obviously had decided to forgo completing this obstacle.” I made it but was expecting heavenly gates at the end.
And the gamblers course, I went right and it was scary, very scary.
Thanks again for a great thorough review. It was a fun read!
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